Was Gore Hired as Venture Capitalist or Venture Lobbyist?

As NewsBusters readers are well aware, we have for months been chronicling Nobel Laureate Al Gore's profit motive concerning the advancement of climate change hysteria.

Last Monday, it was announced that the Global Warmingist-in-Chief had been hired by Silicon Valley's most prestigious venture capital firm.

At the time, the implication was that Gore would assist Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in finding new, unknown eco-friendly companies to invest in.

According to Fox News's "The Journal Editorial Report," Gore's position with Kleiner Perkins may be to get a currently stalled energy bill through Congress that would end up helping companies the VC group has already invested in (video available here, h/t Tim Graham):

James Freeman, WSJ Assistant Editorial Page Editor: His timing could be perfect for Kleiner, because the firm has backed more than a dozen of these clean technologies, but they haven't been able to exit any yet. So as they look to cash out, a big, big issue for them is the energy bill, now stalled in Congress, with lots of subsidies and favorable regulations for these companies and their portfolios. So Al Gore--Mr. Gore is showing up at a critical time here for the company.

To put this in simpler terms, the VC group Gore just joined has a number of investments in so-called "green" companies, but has yet to be able to bring any to the market. The primary way such a firm makes money is when companies it owns a significant piece of go public on one of America's stock exchanges or NASDAQ.

As Fortune magazine reported last Tuesday, Kleiner Perkins has yet to do this (emphasis added): "Five years after Kleiner Perkins made its first green investment, the firm hasn't had one "exit" -- VC-speak for an IPO or a sale of a company that validates the investment thesis."

As such, Kleiner Perkins has money invested that has yet to pan out. And, with Congress currently debating both an energy bill and a global warming bill, the future of KP's investments might be at stake.

Enter former Vice President Al Gore:

Paul Gigot, Host: Wait a minute. You're saying that this is not necessarily all about venture capitalism, but it may be about venture politics in Washington?

Freeman: Well, as far as why they make certain investments and how, I'll leave that to experts, but what's absolutely clear is that the stakes are huge for the companies they've invested in, in the green tech space in the Washington energy bill, if it ever happens.

Gigot: What companies are those? Are they in ethanol, solar?

Freeman: Two companies in ethanol. Another company that is biofuels, claiming to be creating something even better than ethanol, which probably won't be hard. Whether it can be better than gasoline is the tough challenge. Then you have two companies in solar, another one in geothermal.

Gigot: Wow. So 60 votes in the Senate may be Al Gore's real game here if can he do something in Washington to get that energy bill through the Senate.

Unfortunately, this was not a side of this issue prominently discussed by the mainstream media that not only adore the former Vice President, but have fallen hook, line, and sinker for his charade.

In a related matter, it was indeed fascinating to see how many press outlets last week shared with their patrons that Gore was donating his Kleiner Perkins salary to his climate change awareness foundation.

At the time, NewsBusters noted that Gore's salary would end up representing a small portion of his actual compensation. Surprisingly, one of the versions of this announcement published by the Associated Press last Monday actually addressed this inconvenient truth (emphasis added):

Gore promised to donate 100 percent of his salary as a Kleiner Perkins partner to the Alliance for Climate Protection, the Palo Alto-based think tank he founded to focus on accelerating policy solutions to the climate crisis.

The donation does not include stock options. Typically, a tiny fraction of a venture capitalist's compensation is salary; the vast majority of wealth comes from sale of stock options when the companies the firm invests in are sold to the public.

"It's one of the benefits of not being in the public sector anymore," Gore said with a laugh.

I guess this got passed most media outlets, including Oliver Willis of Media Matters.

Color me unsurprised.

In the end, this leads to one question: When will members of the press - who are always skeptical about the motives of businessmen, CEOs, and folks on Wall Street - begin to seriously examine the financial ties that folks like Gore have to inciting climate hysteria?

Is this just too complex an issue for these people, or is it impossible for them to do anything that might undermine their political agendas?

What follows is a full transcript of this segment.

Paul Gigot, Host: Al Gore is taking his global warming crusade to Silicon Valley. The former Democratic vice president and recent Nobel Peace Prize winner announced he is joining a powerhouse venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins, in an effort to finance so-called green technologies.

Here with a closer look at Gore's new gig, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editorial page editor Dan Henninger, assistant editorial page editor James Freeman and Washington columnist Kim Strassel.

James, you've been following this. Kleiner Perkins is one of the most famously successful venture firms in America, financed some of the great companies, high-tech companies. What is Al Gore up to?

James Freeman, WSJ Assistant Editorial Page Editor: His timing could be perfect for Kleiner, because the firm has backed more than a dozen of these clean technologies, but they haven't been able to exit any yet. So as they look to cash out, a big, big issue for them is the energy bill, now stalled in Congress, with lots of subsidies and favorable regulations for these companies and their portfolios. So Al Gore--Mr. Gore is showing up at a critical time here for the company.

Gigot: Wait a minute. You're saying that this is not necessarily all about venture capitalism, but it may be about venture politics in Washington?

Freeman: Well, as far as why they make certain investments and how, I'll leave that to experts, but what's absolutely clear is that the stakes are huge for the companies they've invested in, in the green tech space in the Washington energy bill, if it ever happens.

Gigot: What companies are those? Are they in ethanol, solar?

Freeman: Two companies in ethanol. Another company that is biofuels, claiming to be creating something even better than ethanol, which probably won't be hard. Whether it can be better than gasoline is the tough challenge. Then you have two companies in solar, another one in geothermal.

Gigot: Wow. So 60 votes in the Senate may be Al Gore's real game here if can he do something in Washington to get that energy bill through the Senate.

Dan Henninger, WSJ Deputy Editorial Page Editor: Yeah, that's right, Paul. You know, at some level, I think it's quite preposterous and even dangerous. If you want to put a solar panel on the roof of your house, feel free. But we're talking about the energy sources for the entire economy. Things like biomass, solar, geothermal, this all requires--this is immensely complex issues, and the only way to sort through which one works is with the price mechanism. And it seems to me, if you fool with the price mechanism with these subsidies, as we're learning with ethanol, you're going to really put the economy at risk if you try to go down the road and purport to be able to subsidize fuel for the entire American economy.

Gigot: Kim Strassel, you're our Washington expert here, following the maneuverings in the Beltway on energy. Where does this energy bill stand, and is it as crucial to these alternative fuels as we've been discussing?

Kim Strassel, WSJ Columnist: The energy bill is stuck at the moment, which is actually a good thing, because it's a horrible bill. It gets exactly to what James and Dan have been saying. These days if you're an energy company it is not about building a product and getting Americans to want to buy it. It's about getting Congress to mandate its use. This is what the bills that are in the House and the Senate are about right now.

In the Senate version, you've got a CAFE provision to raise fuel efficiency on cars. This is a huge boon to people who're making clean car technology and all of the people that go along with that. And then in the House you've got something called the Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires utilities to produce at least 15% of their electricity from renewable sources--wind, solar, geothermal--by 2020. This is again a huge sort of handout requiring people to use wind power, solar power, geothermal power. These companies probably wouldn't compete on the market otherwise.

Gigot: But Kim, I think if you're Al Gore, you'd you say global warming is such an overwhelming problem. It threatens our existence, and therefore, these taxpayer subsidies, or something like this, they really should go to developing these alternative energies, because that's the only--if that's the only way they will be competitive, so be it. But this is something we, as a culture, as a society, as a country, ought to invest in. What's your response to that?

Strassel: I think there are two. One, is that if you really believe in that, OK, except at least put your money something that works. Right now renewables are about 3% of our electricity energy needs at the moment. And it is going to take a phenomenal amount of money to even double that number. So it's not going to make much of a dent in what we actually emit.

The other thing, though, is there's a great argument out there that by instituting these things--who's going to pay for all this? Fundamentally, American consumers. Anytime energy costs go up, it's bad for the economy. Wouldn't the economy, wouldn't the country be better off if you had a booming economy, if energy prices were low, and you could then use the fruits of all of that to come up with sort of smarter tech investments. That's how the markets work, and in the past, it has been how we get some of our best innovations to fix some of these environmental problems.

Gigot: James, there's also been something of a political backlash, interesting enough, against corn ethanol. As it's boomed in the Midwest, some parts of the country where these plants are going up don't like them.

Freeman: That's right. You have competition for water, and as ethanol sucks more of that water from other uses, you're going to have more controversy out there. Right now, to create a gallon of ethanol, you need about 1,700 gallons of water and about a gallon of oil. So it's obviously not economical. I think people are realizing that. But even on the environmental side, greens are starting to say, Wait a minute. This has a huge water appetite. Let's cut back.

Gigot: All right.

Strassel: Paul, ethanol's also a great example of how when you centrally direct markets, it has a knock-on effect across everything else.

Gigot: All right, Kim, thank you very much.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.